03 Jun 5 Herbs for Painful Periods
Do you struggle with menstrual cramps?
I know I do – well, I used to. Some months it would be worse than others and I would have to miss school or work because I didn’t feel I could get out of bed. Those days, I would finally break down and take an ibuprofen. It wasn’t my favorite solution, but hey, it works.
Since then, I’ve learned other ways to holistically treat or even prevent cramps. One of my favorite treatments is herbal medicine!
Here are 5 herbs that help treat painful periods!
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
This beautiful herb is most popular for its sedative effects. However, it is also an effective antispasmodic. It works by preventing the depolarization of smooth muscle cells, like the in the uterus. When the cells can’t be depolarized, they are unable to contract and cause the cramping sensation you experience.
Reduction in severity of menstrual cramps.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is not just a tasty addition to your salads and stir fry meals! It also helps to block the inflammatory and spasmodic intermediates throughout the body (including the uterus!). The uterus (and most of your internal organs) are made up of smooth muscle. Ginger has been studied to show antispasmodic effects on smooth muscle. In a double-blind clinical trial, ginger was as effective as two conventional drugs: ibuprofen and mefenamic acid. It’s a great supporting agent when treating painful menstrual cramps.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
This herb is commonly used for the relief of menopause symptoms. However, it has a very powerful relaxing effect on the uterus, easing painful menstrual cramping, false labor pains and threatened miscarriages. Consider black cohosh for menstrual cramping of mild to severe intensity of both congestive and spasmodic nature.
Bonus! Black cohosh is also helpful with PMS irritability and anxiety, delayed or irregular menstrual cycles or scanty flow.
Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus castus)
Vitex is an excellent herb for regulating menstrual cycles and symptoms. It works by regulating the hypothalamus-pituitary (HPA) axis. That is, it works upstream to manage hormone release rather than directly on the uterus. In particular, it increases progesterone production which, in addition to many other functions, sends a message to the uterus to “chill out” for now. In one study, Vitex reduced the intensity of menstrual pain by 70% compared to placebo.
Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)
This is my favorite herb for menstrual cramping. I can’t tell you how much this one has helped me! Cramp Bark is one of the most documented botanicals for menstrual cramps. It acts as a general antispasmodic and powerful uterine relaxant. Use this herb for both congestive and spasmodic cramps, including low back pains.
Make an appointment for more information on dosing for menstrual cramps and other menstrual symptoms!
Dr. Lexie Ching
Naturopathic Doctor Bend
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Hudson T. Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: Alternative Therapies and Integrative Medicine for Total Health and Wellness. Rev. and updated. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2008.
Mirabi P, Alamolhoda SH, Esmaeilzadeh S, Mojab F. Effect of medicinal herbs on primary dysmenorrhoea- a systematic review. Iran J Pharm Res. 2014;13(3):757–767.